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The SEO Implications of Bing, Part II: SERPs

My last post explored the possible differences between Bing’s new algorithm and Google, affirming some commonly cited variances and discovering others that had little or no evidence. Though there were some confirmed differences between the way Bing and Google determine the rankings of natural results, they would probably have little impact on search engine optimization tactics for two reasons:

  1. Bing algorithm is likely to change soon, so any gains from, for example, changing URLs to include keywords could be reversed in the near future.
  2. Bing does not account for enough traffic to shift focus from optimizing for Google’s algorithm.

Bing’s new algorithm has limited effects on day-to-day SEO; however, the new features of Bing’s search engine results pages (SERPs) have a clear impact on organic search strategy.

New functions like Best Match, Document Preview, and Quick Tabs provide additional spaces where sites should aim appear. Updates of old features, like Local and Shopping, mean that the some of the processes have changed from MSN and Live search. The following sections discuss new and updated features as well as the changes to online strategy that will help leverage these features.

Quick Tabs & Categorized Results

Bing - Quick Tabs

What they are: Quick Tabs (pictured to the left) are the handful of links at the top left corner of a SERP, where categorized results appear for very broad searches to break them up into more niche queries. The same longer-tail searches often appear in both places, but Quick Tabs include both these longer-tail searches and links to specific Bing services (such as Images, News, Shopping, and Videos).

Strategy: Use these spaces for discovering new keywords to target. Take note of the Quick Tabs that show up for your broadest keywords (those with the most search volume), these Bing services and deeper pages may be traffic-driving positions. For example, a Bing search for “electric wheelchairs” brings up only one Quick Tab, Videos. Assuming that 1-3% of users searching that phrase look for videos, a site that sells electric wheelchairs can gain extra visitors simply by creating a YouTube video.

 
Best Match

What it is: When Bing has an extremely high confidence rate (for example, on a search for “Sears”), it will return one result at the top of the page with the text “Best match.” A best match also gets 8 links to deeper sites in the page and an internal search form. Local companies can get it too, but not all of them–Cavender’s, a western wear store, gets a best match, whereas Amy’s Ice Creams does not.

Strategy: Be sure your URL and Title Tags contain your company name – it is unlikely that a best match will ever return for a non-branded term like “hammers.” Include the company name in the Alt tag of the header image or logo that appears on every page. Add an internal search to your page and make sure your sub-pages are both prominently listed in the main navigation and given higher priority in your XML sitemap. Lastly, if your site is a local brick-and-mortar, ensure that Bing knows your physical address by creating a local listing (and, of course, associating your URL with this listing).

Document Preview

Bing - Document Preview

What it is: Document Previews appear when a user mouses over a listing, then mouses over the orange circle that pops up to the right of the listing. It pulls information (usually body copy) from the page to populate this window. SEO must now ensure that the information coming up in the pop up window is both informative and engaging – that is, it will both let the users know exactly what to expect (to minimize unqualified traffic) and entice users to click on the link (to draw in qualified traffic). The above example, Nike, failed to do so.

Strategy: Determine the specific content that Bing is pulling from your site to populate its Document Preview. It could be as complicated as text within a Flash file or even text within a deeper page, but is most likely from the beginning of a CSS division, or <DIV> for the coding-inclined. Bing seems to like short paragraphs and bulleted lists. Modify this text to be, again, both informative and engaging.

Instant Answers (Update)

What it is: Like Google, Bing provides very specific information on the search results for certain types of search queries (i.e., currency conversion on Google or flight information on Bing). Bing’s instant answers capabilities are vastly improved from those of MSN and Live Search, providing these types of results for a much wider range of queries.

Strategy: Although appearing in the Instant Answers could potentially drive traffic and increase brand recognition, becoming one of these partners is most likely outside of the scope of SEO and probably involves direct communication with Microsoft programmers. An e-commerce or otherwise primarily commercial site has very little chance of becoming a source of information for Instant Answers. Sites that serve as informational databases on a given topic could, however, enter some sort of partnership with Bing in which they are the sole provider of a type of data. Comstock, for example, gives Bing its quotes for stock ticker searches, American Telephone & Telegraph provides information about area codes, and FlightStats enables Bing’s instant answers for flight information.

Bing Local Listings (Update)

Bing Local Listings

What it is: Also an update from an MSN and Live Search feature, Bing Local Listings change the way information about businesses are presented and improves review aggregation. Bits of reviews are categorized by keyword, as seen in the example above. For example, Bing pulls comments regarding wait times from reviews on sites like Yelp and provides aggregated ratings for wait times at restaurants. Users first fill out basic information about their business, which will be used to check whether the business is already in Bing’s database, before they add photos, videos, hours, and other information. Much like Google, users can then assign categories (up to 6) that will be used to help determine what type of business is being submitted (unlike Google, custom categories cannot be created). A snail mail piece with a verification code will be sent, and listings usually update within a few days of verification.

Strategy: The main change in strategy here is that the Webmaster Center no longer provides the link to submit a local business. That form is now at this URL. It is not linked to any of Bing’s main pages, so some users who have used this feature in the past may now have trouble finding it. Also, the new keyword categorization of portions of reviews from sites like Yelp means that the wording of reviews is very important. For example, a user mentioning a short wait time would increase the average rating for that metric on the listing pictured above. Lastly, Microsoft has initiated a partnership with Yellow Pages local listings so paid sponsors are listed above normal listings. Paid local listings link directly to the business’s page on YellowPages.com.

Bing Shopping (Update)

What it is: Bing, like Google, can return e-commerce results along with regular organic listings. The results lead to a landing page that shows various products related to a search term with pictures, descriptions, prices, and links to retailers. However, two weeks before the release of Bing (May 15, 2009), Microsoft ended its Live Search Product Upload feature. Therefore, adding products is no longer a user-end process for Bing (but it still is for Google, which uses Google Base).

Strategy: Since Microsoft has assumed the responsibility of uploading product information to its search engine, it is also no longer a free service. One must contact a Microsoft sales representative to discuss being added to this section of the site, which is apparently based on a CPC bidding model. During this process, a site owner can also decide to participate in Bing’s Cashback program. Looking at the proportion of Cashback offers to total retailers on Bing Shopping; it looks like Microsoft salespeople are enthusiastically pitching the Cashback partnership. The strategy for being listed in Bing Shopping has shifted from previously being arguably related to SEO to now PPC.

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3 Responses to “The SEO Implications of Bing, Part II: SERPs”

  1. scotte Says:

    uh-cool.

  2. Tom Says:

    i am a user of Microsofts BING search engine and it is as good as google for static webpage search. for searching blogs, i think google gives more relevant search results compared bing.

  3. Kim Lautner Says:

    I use both Bing and Google search engine and i dont see much difference in their search results. I use google for searching hard to find academic topics and Bing for general search.

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